The smartphone is starting to play a bigger role in healthcare. Doctors are using mobile devices for everything from accessing electronic health records to communicating with patients to taking photos of patients’ ailments.
The trouble with that last one, says WITS(MD) CEO K. Thomas Pickard, is that taking medical images with a smartphone creates two problems: sensitive health information could be exposed if the phone gets lost or stolen, and there’s no official documentation of the doctor taking the photo.
Pickard’s company created software, called ImageMover, to solve both of those issues.
WITS(MD)’s mobile app, available on Apple’s App Store or Google Play, encrypts the photo and transmits it to back-end software that transfers the photo into the hospital’s image archives and the patient’s electronic health record. Once successfully transmitted, the app erases the photo from the phone. The software is compliant with patient privacy laws—no personal health information is ever present on the phone, so the chances of a privacy breach are virtually zero, WITS(MD) says.
The Middleton, WI-based company unveiled the product at a healthcare IT industry conference in April.
And this week, it closed on $1.6 million in funding, mostly from Wisconsin angel investors, Pickard says. Those backers include Jim Berbee, an entrepreneur, medical doctor, and University of Wisconsin-Madison clinical assistant professor.
“What we’re really trying to do here is solve the physician equivalent of texting and driving,” Pickard says. “It’s something we know we’re not supposed to do; and in the physician world, it’s fairly well-known physicians are taking pictures of patients and sharing them with each other,” he says. “Many medical institutions find this to be a common situation, where in the interest of getting the right information into the right hands, physicians will use any means possible.”
Pickard shares an example where a person arrives at an emergency room late at night with a big cut on the forehead. The emergency doctor on duty has to make a decision—should he or she sew up the laceration, or should the hospital’s go-to plastic surgeon be called in to treat the wound? The on-call doctor might snap a photo of the injury on a smartphone and send it to the ace plastic surgeon to ask for an opinion, Pickard says.
But without a secure solution like WITS(MD)’s software, Pickard says, patient information could be compromised, and there’s a lack of accountability if something goes wrong with the treatment. “If the patient is unhappy with the result, there’s no way of going back and verifying what happened,” Pickard says.
WITS(MD) was founded in 2013 by Gary Wendt and Richard Bruce, two medical doctors and UW-Madison professors who co-invented the company’s patent-pending software. Pickard, who lives in San Francisco, came on board as CEO in April. He previously was site lead and director of healthcare industry marketing for Lexmark Healthcare. Pickard worked with WITS(MD) director of engineering Mark Gehring at the former UltraVisual Medical Systems in the early 2000s.
WITS(MD) will use the seed funds primarily to hire more employees in Wisconsin, Pickard says, declining to share how big the team is now or how much it will grow.
The company’s first customer is UW Health, which will begin using WITS(MD)’s software in September, first in its dermatology department, Pickard says. The company’s software is also drawing interest from surgical departments, he adds.
UW Health will also make ImageMover available for patients to upload photos to their online healthcare portal, where doctors and other care providers could view them. That could potentially save a doctor’s office visit, Pickard says.
In addition, the software has the ability to transmit video clips, which could be useful for studying a patient’s gait or monitoring the progress of a patient with an essential tremor disorder, Pickard says. “It’s a lot easier to take a small video clip than it is to write words that [explain] the severity of the tremor.”
Helping to transfer medical images and videos from patients to doctors could potentially be a bigger market for WITS(MD) than enabling secure sharing of such media between physicians, Pickard says. “The whole telehealth market is exploding. This is one piece of a larger ecosystem. But the convenience to patients is tremendous.”